Saturday, March 06, 2010

Butch Walker at Criminal Records

Apparently this really is just becoming a Butch Walker-related blog. Not quite sure how that happened. I haven't read ANY of the reviews for "I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart" on purpose to try to write a unique review... though I will admit I've picked the album over relentlessly with my brother. I'll try to give him credit when his ideas come through.

So living in the greater metro Atlanta (yes, for the purposes of this entry, I am including Athens in the greater ATL) affords one some Butch-related perks. Namely that you can drop everything and go to a private show at Criminal Records with about 24 hours notice.

For those of you who missed it, there was an event at Criminal Records on 03/05 for the release of Butch's new album "I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart." Basically, for every copy of the cd/vinyl you bought, you got a (not exactly) free pass to a small show at CR last night. Standing room only--probably around 200 people there. Small, intimate, perfect venue for actually getting to meet and greet.

Onto the album itself first: LOVE it. I'll have to be perfectly honest--Sycamore Meadows didn't really do it for me. For me, in many ways, the albums have kind of steadily declined since "Letters"... A lot of the sound that drew me in with Marvelous 3 is just missing after Letters. I loved a lot about "The Rise and Fall," but there are songs on there that I haven't listened to since the first listen-through. Then "Sycamore Meadows" came out, and I was really stoked, hoping for a return in some ways to some of the fun stuff from "Left of Self Centered." There are even more songs on that one that I skip (Summer Scarves, Song for the Metalheads). I actually walked out of the show at The Loft that they did in November 08... It was an acute disappointment (especially after the Center Stage show previously). Jesse Malin was fantabulous and wonderful, but Butch et al just felt stale, bored, and not happy to be there at all. Doesn't help that The Loft is a G-d awful venue. Then, I was supposed to go to the show at the 40 Watt in Athens last April, but ended up having to go to a conference last second.

So honestly, I went into "I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart" with a lot of trepidation--coming behind my least favorite Butch album and after a mediocre show at The Loft, I wasn't expecting a lot.

I was wrong. So very wrong.

Butch is back, and while it's not the bombastic electric guitar riffs and rock tambourine of old, it's a great album. "House of Cards" is by far my favorite song--its ELO-style backup vocals, Butch's almost Lennonesque (my brother pointed this out) tones (think the high notes on "Watching the Wheels"), and catchy pop beat are amazing. I'd love to hear it on the radio. "Temporary Title" is way up there for me, too. The background vocals are excellent and I don't miss the lack of Marvy 3-style guitar. The acoustic guitar adds something absolutely amazing to it.

The two pre-releases, "She Likes Hair Bands" and "Trash Day," are excellent. I definitely like "She Likes Hair Bands" more--catchier and you've just gotta love the hand claps. Trash Day is good--watch this video from Fox 5 if you want to see a fun rendition of it (fun in that the newscaster can't say "Trash Day" properly...).

And I've gotta say, a few of the songs I was kind of "meh" about I now love having seen them live. That's really the consistent thing about any of Butch Walker's music, regardless of his genre changes--he's such a dynamic performer, and unfortunately a lot of that is lost in studio. Like "Pretty Melody" for instance. Album-wise, it's got a great ELO-style intro (seriously, was someone in the mixing room listening to some Jeff Lynne?). I didn't *dislike* the song by any stretch of the term, but it really wasn't one of my favorites. Until I heard it live last night, and then I was sold.

So, back to the show last night. I had gotten the album last week before finding out about the show at Criminal Records. Needed to get passes for myself and a friend, so I bought myself a copy of the vinyl and a copy of the CD for my brother. Drove into Lawrenceville and met up with my buddy Suraj. We ended up getting down to Little 5 around 6:30 or so. Hit up CR to get the CD and vinyl to make sure we had our passes and then ventured down to Junkman's to suit up (I was in some serious need of concert gear--I'd come straight from work). Got in line around 7:15--doors opened after 8:30. Met up with some fun people in line.

If you've never been to an in-store at CR, you've really missed out. The acoustics are surprisingly good and the ambiance of the room is amazing. Everyone that's there *wants* to be there--unlike larger concerts where you get a lot of noobs and boyfriends dragged along to hold purses.

The best part about last night: the kids. There were several tweens/teens there, including one little boy around 10ish named Christian (who was there with his younger female cousin). Christian was probably the only person at a concert who has ever been shorter to me, so when he asked if he could get in front of me, how could I possibly say no. This kid was just too damned precious for words. I asked him if he'd ever been to a show before, and he told me it was his first concert ever. I melted. He then informed me that Butch was "his hero" with such a serious look on his face that I wanted to hug him. His parents probably would have flipped their shit, though, lol.

Butch and the Black Widows played mostly new songs last night. Unfortunately, they did not play "House of Cards," so hopefully they'll play it tonight. The Black Widows (and can I just say I love the new band? Fran's my hero--I'm so glad he's back!) opened with "Trash Day" last night. They also played "Pretty Melody," "Canadian Ten," "They Don't Know," and "Don't You Think Someone Should Take You Home." They closed with "The 3 Kids In Brooklyn," which I honestly think I'm going over the live feed from last night to make this set list for y'all, and you can actually hear me and a couple of my friends yelling out "garrr" in pirate voices between "Canadian Ten" and "They Don't Know"... *blushes*. Had to be there.

After the show, the band went back into the office for a second, and then came out to bust down the stage. I got to talk to Fran for a second, and he let me get a picture with him. Then Butch let us get pics and autographs. I've been to several shows over the years, but never got this opportunity. My brother actually won the biggest fan challenge on the last tour and got to meet him before the show. Butch was very kind and gracious, and I really appreciated getting to thank him.

Part two of this will go up after tonight's show :) If you'd like to see more pictures, please click on the title of this entry!

Now playing: Butch Walker - House of Cards
via FoxyTunes


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